When I put them on the sky turned bluer than it was,
and the hills, as if suffusedwith gold, glowed
like an Old Master’s oil.
We were driving back from Montpelier where we met our California e-mail friends.
It was the first time I’d seen them in their real bodies, instead of the bodies of words
lofted across a continent. I knew them and didn’t know them. What is added when
we see athing we have only touched with language? Patrick handed his glasses to me.
I put them on,
and in those tinted lens,
the mountains turned to topaz, emerald, garnet.
Once, at my old job in an ugly city, the receptionist came back from the cellar where
she’d gone to store files. Talking high and fast, she said she’d looked through the
basement window into the storm drain outside, which was covered at ground level
with an iron grill. At the bottom of the drain, lying there, was an impossible animal:
two-headed, pink and beige. We didn’t, of course, believe her.
One after another, we went down
into that place of moldy dampness,
into the dust.
But each returned
with the same strange story:
two heads, pink and beige.
I was last.
I went down into the
dust and dim, and found my way
to the window that was the one light,
and looked through it.
And looked again.
In truth, the creature was pink fur and beige fur.
It had two heads
and both were sleeping.
What is it when we see when we see?
Whatever held me to that perception
lifted, and I saw
not one, but two of them, one tan — one white,
their small tails curled around their small bodies —
tame creatures whose gone-wild mother
had gone off and left them,
lying one across the back of the other,
asleep and unaware.
What is it we want to see?
Patrick said I looked good in the glasses.
I kept them on for a long time
as the Green mountain autumn
flew, heightened and sharp-edged, by us,
and the sky with its brilliant and irregular
triangles of turquoise stayed steady
between the clouds. That illusion — I held
on to it for a long time,
because there was nothing confusing then —
nothing that was not beautiful.
Patricia Fargnoli is a friend of r.kv.r.y. and the Poet Laureate of New Hampshire. She authored 3 books and 2 chapbooks of poetry. Her latest book, Duties of the Spirit (Tupelo Press 2005) is the winner of the prestigious 2005 Jane Kenyon Poetry Book Award for Outstanding Poetry. Her first book, Necessary Light (Utah State University Press), won the 1999 May Swenson Book Award. Fellow at the Macdowell Colony, and a frequent resident at The Dorset Colony in Dorset, Vermont, Fargnoli was on the faculty of The Frost Place Poetry Festival. She has published over 200 poems in such literary journals as Poetry, Ploughshares, and The Mid-American Review.
Pilot Glasses reprinted from Necessary Light, Utah State University Press, 2000.